Category Archives: Uncategorized

Going to Try With a Little Help From My Friends*

One of the best things about being a part of the blogging community is the fine, fine people who are a part of it. Yes, I mean you. You have helpful ideas and you get me thinking in ways I wouldn’t otherwise do. And I’m grateful for that.

Last week, for instance, I asked you to help me choose the right title for my next Joel Williams novel. Not only were you kind enough to cast your votes, but you also gave me some really helpful insight into titles. So, let’s take a look at what you told me.



As you can see, 13 of you (54%) chose No Second Chance(s). And we had a really helpful discussion about making that last word singular or plural. It’s fascinating, isn’t it, how important even one letter can be.

On the surface of it, it seems that that title was the most popular choice. But there’s more to be learned here if you look a bit more closely. Four of you (fully 17%) told me you didn’t care for any of the titles on offer. That, plus the 7 of you (29%) who chose one of the other titles, is telling me that the choice of No Second Chance(s) isn’t exactly a mandate from the people. And those of you who didn’t choose that title gave me really useful insights into why it might not work.

All that tells me that No Second Chance(s) might not be as universally appealing as I’d like. Of course, no title is going to draw in every reader. And, if you’ve ever done research, you know that 24 participants don’t constitute a large data set. So, perhaps No Second Chance(s) would be the right choice.

Then again, it didn’t overwhelm. What’s more, I got another terrific idea for a title from our conversation last week (thank you, Kathy D.!): Downfall. Not only does is that title ‘short and sweet,’ but it also captures the essence of the plot in more ways than one. I can certainly see it as the final title choice. It just goes to show that authors should always be open to others’ ideas, whether or not they end up in the final product. Arrogance does not serve a story.

So, what’s next? Over the next few months, I plan to finish revising the novel, and make a final choice of title. Then, of course, there’s the editing. Hopefully, the next Joel Williams novel will be published early next year. Watch this space!


Thanks for your help!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends.





Filed under Uncategorized

Alternative Facts? Or Not? ;-)

Just look at the news today, and you’ll see that it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s ‘fake news.’ Trying to work out which is which is a challenge, and that’s got me thinking about…




…a quiz!!! Oh, stop it! It’s hardly my fault if you haven’t studied, is it? 😉

In this world of fake news and ‘alternative facts,’ it’s important to get the facts right. And as a dedicated crime fiction fan, you know all of your crime-fictional facts, don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Decide whether each ‘fact’ you see is real or fake, and see how many you get right.

Ready? Start up the polygraph to begin… if you dare!  😉



Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Give Up*

The news of yesterday’s suicide attack in Manchester is shocking and disturbing. My deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in the attack; I wish you peace and healing as you move on. My wishes, too, for quick recovery to those who were injured. Please know that millions of people everywhere stand with you as you cope. I hope that knowing you are not alone will help you stay strong.

One of my social media contacts asked a thought-provoking question about this attack: are we getting inured? Do we no longer allow ourselves to feel deeply about such awful acts of violence? If that’s true, what does that say about us?

Humans can adapt to a lot of situations; it’s part of how we survive as a species. There’s an argument, too, that if we really stopped and absorbed every suicide attack, every senseless murder, and so on, we’d be frozen into immobility. That’s true in life, and if you read crime fiction, there are many, many examples of it there, too. Fictional police, for instance, have to do their jobs, no matter what horrors they see. They can’t ‘freeze up.’ The same goes for fictional PIs, and so on.

On the other hand, becoming too detached doesn’t work, either. There are plenty of crime-fictional examples of characters who are so detached as to be thoroughly dysfunctional. They can’t do their jobs well, they can’t maintain relationships, and they can’t connect with the world enough to be dedicated to what they do.

There’s another way, too, that we can look at this question of how inured we are (or aren’t). If you consider the crime novels that are published each year, there are plenty in which there’s some brutal, ugly violence. Some of it’s quite gratuitous, too. And there’s arguably more of it than there used to be in the genre. A friend of mine once put it this way: you’ve got to out-Hannibal Hannibal Lecter. You may not read such books yourself, but they’re big sellers.

Don’t mistake me. I’m not arguing that such books shouldn’t be published. I’m too dedicated to freedom of expression for that. But it’s a piece of evidence that we’ve gotten accustomed to extreme violence in our crime fiction. And that makes me wonder what this says about us.

I know that people are feeling a lot of different things about the Manchester attack: anger, shock, sadness, and lots of other things. That’s only natural. If we’re going to retain our humanity, we need to feel those things about all the attacks we hear about, whether they’re at a concert, an outdoor market, or anywhere else, and wherever in the world they occur. Those feelings hopefully keep us from being too inured to others’ suffering. And hopefully, they help us to stop this needless violence, and keep us from behaving in inhumane ways. There’s enough of that in the world already.

My thoughts and wishes for peace and healing to those who lost loved ones in the Manchester attack, and to the injured and their families. We are with you.

NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Peter Gabriel song.


Filed under Uncategorized

Apartments For Rent

‘So, what do you think?’ Melanie asked. She turned towards the prospective tenants, and gave them a beautiful, bonded-and-veneered smile. She’d spent the last half hour touring them around the apartment community, selling them on its virtues. Now they were back in her office.

‘The property’s gorgeous,’ Anna said. ‘And I love the gym and the pool.’
‘Nice location, too,’ Ethan said.
Ethan and Anna exchanged a look. ‘Can we see a unit?’ Anna asked.
‘Sure. Now, you were interested in two bedrooms, two baths, right?’
‘Right,’ Ethan nodded.
‘Let’s see,’ Melanie murmured as she looked through the listings. Then she smiled again. ‘You’re in luck. There are a few available right now. One’s right by the pool…’
‘Oh, thanks, but no,’ Anna said. ‘Pools can get noisy, and I’m a writer. I need more quiet than that.’
‘Not a problem,’ Melanie answered. ‘Here’s one that’s in a quieter location. It’s not far from the playground, but it’s not right next to it, either.’
‘Wait a sec,’ Anna said. She pointed at another unit marked as vacant. ‘It’s in such a nice, secluded spot.’
‘Oh, that’s got some real structural problems,’ Melanie said. ‘It’s not occupied, but it’s not available.’
Ethan nodded. ‘Let’s see the one you suggested,’ he said.
‘Great,’ Melanie said. ‘It’s available for immediate occupancy. You’ll love it.’

And they did. Ethan and Anna took possession a month later, and settled in right away. Anna loved the view from her office window, and Ethan was happy that the new place was only a ten-minute drive from his office. The community staff members were friendly, and, wonder of wonders, there weren’t any maintenance problems. Finally, Anna thought, she could get some peace. It hadn’t been easy, getting readjusted to the outside after three months at the mental health place. But she was feeling a lot stronger now, and this new place just made it even better.

Still, Anna couldn’t help noticing the vacant apartment whenever she passed it. There were piles of things on the patio, and the windows looked sealed shut. What was even weirder was that there was never any progress made. It looked as though the apartment was completely abandoned, and in bad condition, too. It didn’t make any sense to her.

‘Oh, that one,’ Melanie said when Anna asked about it. ‘Yeah, it’s still being worked on.’ Then, concern in her voice, she asked, ‘Is there a problem with your unit?’
‘Oh, no, not at all! We love it. I’m just curious, that’s all. Guess it’s the writer in me,’ Anna said with a short laugh.
Melanie’s face cleared. ‘Well, that’s good to hear. And no, it’s nothing mysterious.’ She smiled. ‘It’s just a huge project. Takes a lot of time.’
Anna nodded and got up. ‘Well, guess I better get back to it.’ She thanked Melanie and left. Melanie watched her go. When she was sure Anna had left, she picked up her telephone.

After dinner that night, Anna got ready to take the trash out. After she’d emptied the bags into the dumpster, she looked around. It was a beautiful night – might as well take a short walk and enjoy it. She couldn’t help it – she accidentally on purpose walked by the building with the abandoned apartment. That was odd – there was a light on! She stepped closer, glancing around her to be sure she was alone. She didn’t want to be caught snooping. Just as she got within good viewing distance, the light went off. If it had even been on. She shook her head, annoyed with herself for seeing things.

When she got back to the apartment, she told Ethan about it. ‘It was so weird. I could have sworn there was a light on, but then it went off. Or maybe it wasn’t on in the first place. It was just…odd.’
‘Must have been a trick of the light or something,’ Ethan said.
‘Yeah. Or my writer’s imagination on overdrive.’

Two nights later, though, Anna saw the same thing again. A light was on in that abandoned apartment. As she watched, she saw a figure moving around. This was too much. She rushed back to her own apartment and told Ethan what had happened.
‘What were you doing over there, anyway?’ he asked.
‘You don’t have to snap at me! I was just walking around, stretching my legs.’
‘Well, you don’t have to go looking into other apartments, that’s all.’
‘I saw what I saw, Ethan. It’s really strange.’
‘Give it up, OK, Anna? It’s your mind playing tricks on you.’ Then, in a kinder tone, ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. But it’s only been a couple of months since…well, maybe you’re just tired. Or maybe you should get a tuneup?’ His words for a visit to her psychiatrist.
‘Yeah, maybe.’ Ethan could be right. She took a deep breath. Then she nodded. ‘I’ll call and make an appointment.’
Ethan smiled. ‘Just relax, honey. The move and everything – well, you haven’t had time to relax.’
He was right about that, Anna thought. And for a few days, that’s what she did.

Then one evening, almost a week later, it was just too nice outside to stay indoors. The smell of freshly-cut grass, and the sounds of the evening birds, lured Anna, and she went for a walk. This time, she didn’t tell Ethan. For a few minutes, she took in the pleasant feeling of being outdoors, and looked up at the stars. Then, almost without thinking about it, she walked towards the abandoned apartment.

When Anna got close, she saw the light on inside the apartment. She got closer, her slip-on shoes crackling against twigs as she went. She stepped up to the patio, still piled full of who knew what. Then she peeked in through the patio door. There were people there! She could hear them now, their voices too muffled for her to hear what they said. She leaned close to try for a better view.

There you are!’
Anna whirled around. Then she laughed a little. It was just Ethan.
‘Busted,’ she said, sheepishly. Ethan didn’t look at all amused.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘I just – I’m curious.’
‘We talked about this,’ Ethan said sharply. ‘You’re letting all this get to you.’
Then, Anna heard a crack – like a gunshot. She grabbed Ethan’s arm. ‘Did you hear that?’ she gasped.
‘Hear what?’
‘A shot! That was a shot!’
‘I didn’t hear anything, Anna. Come on. Let’s get back home. You need help.’
‘No, Ethan, I know what I heard!’

But Ethan wasn’t listening to her. He walked her firmly back to their apartment and sat her on the living room sofa. He got her a glass of water, and said, ‘Take little sips, Anna. Then let’s go to bed and talk about this tomorrow.’

Anna nodded. With tears at the corners of her eyes, she took a few sips of the water. After a few minutes, she started to feel a little unsteady. Damn him! Ethan had crushed up one of her pills in the water! She looked at him, standing across the room. He was making a call. She tried to get up, but felt too dizzy. She heard his voice, almost like an echo.
‘Yeah, it’s me, Mel.’ Mel? ‘I know, but I thought I ought to tell you. It’s Anna. She…..yeah, but everything’s fine. I’m taking care of it. Don’t worry…’
Anna couldn’t hear anything else. By the time the team from the hospital got there, she was completely sedated.

Ethan signed his name to the hospital paperwork with a flourish. It would be at least six months before they let Anna out again. And with her out of the way, he’d be able to tighten things up at that apartment. He’d thought that moving to the complex would let him do a better job of overseeing the operations. But you could never tell what would happen when new people crossed the border. And those coyotes were capable of anything. Flaco’d been stupid to use a gun, but maybe someone just gave him too much trouble. It would be all right. At least Flaco knew how to get rid of a body. Tomorrow Ethan would give Melanie her cut. And who would care that that apartment never seemed to be occupied?


Filed under Uncategorized

Crime Fiction News Break

Links You’ll Want

Malice Domestic 

Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlist

Nordic Noir Book Club Event



Filed under Uncategorized